With winter upon us, forecasts says there will be a lot of snow on the ground this year. Snow shoveling requires a lot of work and can lead to many low back injuries if not done properly. At Family Physiotherapy, we want you to protect your back, we have developed a list of tips on using the proper mechanics on safe shoveling.
Some helpful shoveling tips can be summed up by PROTECT:
Pace yourself. Ensure you take breaks for every 10-15 minutes of shoveling.
Right shovel. Choose the correct size for you and utilize an ergonomic shovel that can help minimize injuries. One with an adjustable handle to ensure upright posture and ideally a sturdy lightweight shovel will reduce the load of your lifting.
Other options. Stop shoveling and use a snow blower instead. When used correctly, it can put less stress on your low back and utilize the power of your legs to do the work.
Take time to warm up before you shovel the snow. Cold muscles are more vulnerable to injuries when under strain. Therefore, before you begin shoveling, you can warm up your back using:
- heat (hot water bottle or heating pad)
- performing a dynamic stretching routine
- staying warm when you’re outdoors
Don’t forget to ensure that you are also using the proper footwear and staying hydrated throughout the process.
Ergonomic lifting. Bend from your hips, not your low back. Keep your feet shoulder width apart and use your legs when lifting. Avoid twisting with your back and instead pivot your whole body when turning.
Core. Ensure you use your abdominals when lifting, activating your muscles to help take the load off of your low back.
Take your time and listen to your body.
If you have any pains or aches, ensure you speak with your healthcare practitioner regarding any prior injuries before you start snow shoveling. Treating problems before they develop into pain is faster and more cost effective than letting underlying problems develop into pain. If pain or problems have prevented you from being as active as you’d like during the winter months, give our clinic a call and one of our physiotherapists or massage therapists will be happy to get you back on track!
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